One of these days, Mini is going to have to stop calling itself Mini. Its models get larger with each passing generation, and that's proving true once again with the all-new 2017 Mini Countryman, which is now available as a plug-in hybrid for the first time.
While the Countryman sports new underpinnings, it's very obviously still a Mini Countryman. The front and rear fasciae have been updated to better reflect the automaker's current design language, but it retains its lifted-hatchback crossover look. Buyers who opt for the hopped-up Cooper S trim receive LED headlights and running lights and larger alloy wheels.
Mini offers two different engines in gas-only trims. The Cooper makes do with a 1.5-liter turbocharged I3, which puts out 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The Cooper S adds an extra cylinder to the equation, and output bumps up to 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet.
For the first time, all Countryman variants can be optioned with All4 all-wheel drive. No matter what drivetrain layout is desired, buyers have the option of automatic or manual transmissions. On the base, front-wheel-drive Cooper, the slushbox is a six-speed automatic. All other variants receive eight-speed units.
If you want to go green, opt for the horribly named Cooper S E Countryman All4. This is Mini's first plug-in hybrid, combining the I3 motor and a rear-mounted electric motor to produce 221 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. There's no manual transmission here, sadly.
The hybrid runs a unique version of All4, since the gas engine powers the front wheels while the electric motor powers the rear. Only one system will work at a time, unless the conditions require four driven wheels. The car operates in three distinct modes, one of which will hold the battery at 90 percent charge until the driver wants to use it.
Speaking of electricity, the hybrid Mini's 7.6-kWh battery provides enough juice for 24 miles of all-electric driving at speeds up to 77 mph. The electric drivetrain reduces the cargo space, but Mini claims it's a slight change. Most of the hardware rests under the rear seat, which has been raised slightly.
The Mini is larger in every direction, bordering on Not-So-Mini. Head, shoulder and leg room expand for both front and rear occupants. The cargo space grows the most, expanding by 30 percent over the outgoing model.
No matter what trim buyers opt for, Mini's outfitted its Countryman with some pretty fancy standard equipment. Even the base Cooper Countryman comes equipped with leatherette upholstery, a panoramic glass roof, keyless entry, a backup camera and rear parking sensors. Standard equipment also includes a 6.5-inch infotainment display, which can be optioned up to an 8.8-inch touchscreen unit.
The interior still sports those fun little toggle switches, although the hybrid variant changes the red switch out for a yellow one. Other hybrid-specific touches include loads of S badging, a charging port hidden behind the driver-side fender scuttle and additional infotainment-system features.
All 2017 Mini Countryman variants will meet the public for the first time at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The gas-powered Countryman goes on sale in March 2017, while the hybrid is set to arrive shortly thereafter in June.